Read Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne Free Online
Book Title: Empire of the Summer Moon|
The author of the book: S.C. Gwynne
ISBN 13: 9781849017039
Edition: Constable & Robinson
Date of issue: July 1st 2011
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 938 KB
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Reader ratings: 5.2
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As a historian, I will rarely give a general or popular history more than 3 stars. Much the same way I will never say 'an historian'. And no matter the amount of research that goes into popular history, it hardly ever seems to merit so much praise. And that is because it answers no questions, asks no new questions, puts forth none of its own theories, and has no one singular hypothesis. This book, although a fantastic, sweeping history of the Comanche, it is not a work to be discussed as academic history.
The most irritating part of the book is the history of Quanah Parker himself. The most bold and interesting history comes from the first half of the book, up until the introduction of the Hays Rangers.
What the book does is prove that the Comanche were, without a doubt, the most powerful tribe in American history. But this is not a new idea, as most historians would agree that the Comanche dwarfed all other horse tribes in the West in terms of accumulated wealth- an idea that, before the white man, was unknown to the Comanche. Once they mastered the horse, they ascended quickly from Gollum-like scavengers, a group of hyenas picking up the scraps of others, into the most feared Indians in America.
Part of the reason that Western Indian tribes were so feared comes from their lack of domesticity. They did not farm or keep animals for slaughter. They had to hunt on the plains and badlands because farming was not an option. The development of the land in the West around Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming etc was one of the reasons for the Dust Bowl, and by extension, the Great Depression. These lands were not fit for farming, and the plains tribes understood this. However, Americans flooded the land and used all the technology at hand to turn the l;and into life-bearing plots. But I digress. The Comcanche and Apache and Lakota and Sioux were far more aggressive in the West than thier Eastern counterparts due in fact to their need to hunt in order to sustain their way of life on the plains.
But this subject is never touched upon in this book. It never puts forth an actual hypothesis. It never answers questions, but instead gives us fact after fact. And while that is useful and entertaining, especially in this case, it does little to advance our actual knowledge of the 'why's'.
I do congratulate [EDIT] (the author of) this book for not balking at the violence inherent in the Comanche. Too often historians will shy away from the amoral acts of an Indian tribe in order to preserve the idea of a noble savage. In this, we are treated to detailed accounts of Comanche torture. Cutting off the toes, the fingers and genitals of Spaniards, Americans and other frontiersmen, and stuffing them into their owners' mouths was common practice. Letting hot coals burn through a captive's abdomen was another torture technique often applied. There seemed no end to their torture ingenuity. And Gwynne does not make this a symptom of Europeans in America. Gwynne does not say that this was a practice only developed after the Europeans came and brought war upon the land. Which is in fact a fallacy. War between tribes was never bloodless. It was never so pretty or noble. It was always petty and savage. And to think that the white devil unleashed something sinister within the Indian upon their arrival is no more than PC demonizing and pandering to the modern day tribes.
Overall, the book will give the average reader insight into the frontier they did not possess before reading it. It is filled with facts- like the development of the Colt, the relationship between Eli Whitney and Samuel Colt, the Hays Rangers, the torture techniques of Comcanches, the destruction of the Apaches, the transformation of the Comanche from the 1600's- that will entertain and often disgust. But all in all it is well worth the read.
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